By Laura Lifshitz
Although there are exceptions to every rule, many of us feel a financial lifestyle shift after divorce. This impact can be lessened if you end up getting good financial support from an ex or, if you have family who helps support you. But overall, most people have to make financial adjustments. This may mean that you won’t be able to spend like you used to on everything from “must-have’s” to “want-to have’s.” This can be extremely frustrating and hard to adjust to, but the reality is being happy is more important than having a certain lifestyle. As long as you have a roof over your head and are healthy … that’s more than many people have.
If you beat yourself up over these financial changes, it can really bring you down. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of coming up empty-handed, while you think others are doing great and able to give their kids the world. The operative word being “think,” as you really don’t know how other people live, and what they go through. And no matter what, you’ll never measure up by comparing yourself to a two-income family and by doing so, you will only make yourself feel worse. There are ways, however, to deal with these financial stresses and comparisons between your friends and yourself. Read on – and hang on because it always gets better.
The first change you may notice is having less money to socialize with. I know a few people who prefer to go out and do something that costs money when we socialize, which makes it harder for me to spend time with them. There were many times I had to say no to invites (weddings and showers, too) because I was struggling to make my ends meet. It sucked but I realized that my good friends understood and would be happy to just have coffee with me and hang out. I decided that if someone couldn’t make adaptations, then that person probably didn’t prioritize the friendship with me so I didn’t need to worry then. I kept the friendships without draining my wallet but I decided to prioritize the people who wanted my company without requiring me to spend money I didn’t have. Thankfully, most people I know are understanding and this isn’t an issue.
The second change is realizing you may not be able to do those vacations, weekend trips, splashy Disney getaways, a bunch of extracurricular activities and other things that may have been possible when married.
It’s hard to not sit there and feel as if your kids are missing out on what their friends have or what you could once provide them, but really something doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive to create memories with your kiddos. And while it’s nice to be able to sign your kid up for many activities, keep in mind that most kids are overscheduled and burdened so, your kid won’t be, that’s a good thing! It’s hard to remember that when you feel your child is missing out on opportunities that their friends might have, (been there, felt that before!) but you do the best you can. Plenty of kids with a two-income household have parents who are just scraping by to pay for little league. You do the best you can when you can. Your kids will be okay in the long run, so try not to let the guilt eat you up. Easier said, I know, but you’re doing your best and that is more than enough. Showing up for your kids each day physically and emotionally means more than violin lessons.
The third change is lifestyle related. You may be working multiple jobs, rather than one. Your best mom friend may be a stay-at-home mom while you work the graveyard shift. You may feel as if in order to keep afloat, that you are too busy to be as involved with your child’s school, play dates, etc.
This can sting. It can also be tiring. You may have a free day without your kids or the kids may be occupied and instead of meeting your friends for a girls’ day, you may be working a side job. This can feel really stressful, leaving you little time to relax.
My only advice is this: when you do get that free moment and the kids don’t need you and the job(s) don’t need you, do something for yourself. You need to recharge. Burning out is not an option. Think of yourself as a plant—you need food, water, and light to grow. Find your mental “food”, keep yourself hydrated and fed, and find a positive activity, even if it’s just walking, to shed “light” into your life.
Financial changes are hard after divorce. Don’t make them harder by comparing yourself to anyone and most especially, a person with a two-income household. You’re one person doing the best you can and at the end of the day, it’s all you can do, so go easy on yourself. The best is yet to come and these tough times won’t last forever.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.